Canada’s Eric Lamaze put in a phenomenal effort with the Artisan Farms-owned, 13 year old Hannoverian mare Fine Lady 5 (Forsythe x Drosselklang) to win the opening CSI5* 1.45, speed class on Thursday, April 21 at the Longines Global Champions Tour of Antwerp. Under the floodlights in Belgium, Lamaze delivered a fast and agile round in the intimate sand arena, nestled next to the gently flowing River Scheldt.
The first European leg of the LGCT opened with a display of power and horsemanship, as Lamaze held off home favorite Gregory Wathelet and Lilly Lordanos, who had set a good early pace, both taking out strides in the first line and not looking back.
The 1.45m course was kind but encouraged a fast pace, and for riders to gallop the distance between fences. Lamase set a pace early in the order of 50 riders that caused several to then play for a place as he looked un-catchable, showing form and serious intention for the rest of the weekend.
Clears came sparingly in the field in the early stages which altered the strategy of many, meaning a careful round would see finishers in the prize money. With several Grand Prix rides getting their first LGCT outing of the season, some had Saturday on their mind and it would be a class full of interest for those talent-spotting.
Wathelet and Lilly Lordanos, a 9-year-old Hannoverian mare (Lordanos x Goldfever) owned by Pro-Cs were the first to go clear, stopping the clock at 62.81 seconds, much to the delight of the home crowd. Belgium initially dominated the top five, with Olivier Philippaerts and H&M Challenge V. Begijnakker, Niels Bruynseels and Gancia de Muze, and Jos Verlooy and Sunshine putting in strong performances on their home turf.
But it was Lamaze and Fine Lady 5 who stole the show, as they were able defeat a field without breaking a sweat. It was a masterclass of how to ride in a rhythm, looking unhurried but lightening fast. Wathelet is in the same category as such a superb horseman, and he showed how to take a less experienced 5* pairing can show the others the way. The United States’ Lauren Hough and Ohlala were of no surprise to go into the leading few, as the pair skated around, as we have seen so many times before, to turn tight and leave themselves effortlessly into 3rd place.
The home crowd would find comfort in seeing four of Belgian riders in the top 10, boding well for the rest of the week. A total of 18 riders jumped clear, with Daniel Deusser of Germany, Hough, Jessica Mendoza of Great Britain, Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann and Marco Kutscher of Germany all looking on form ahead of this weekend’s Longines Global Champions Tour CSI5* Grand Prix of Antwerp.
For full results of the €62,000 CSI5* ranking class, click here.